The pharynx is the name for the upper throat. Pharyngeal paralysis is paralysis of the upper throat which makes swallowing difficult, if not impossible. It can be caused by a disorder of the nervous system, other diseases, or trauma that causes obstruction, malfunction or collapse of the pharynx. This may be partial, affecting one side of the throat. If this happens, the animal may be able to swallow but complications can occur. There may be severe swallowing problems with pharyngeal paralysis. Food and saliva may come back through the mouth and nose. The throat tissues may collapse.
The dog is at risk of pneumonia due to inhaling food and liquid. This is known as aspiration pneumonia. The animal is also at risk of dehydration, and respiratory and circulatory failure. The symptoms include coughing, gagging, choking and fever. This condition can be fatal. It may be necessary for emergency surgery to be performed in order to provide an airway. This is known as a tracheostomy. The treatment for pharyngeal paralysis is directed at alleviating the symptoms. This may include drugs to control inflammation, alternative methods of nutrition, antibiotics for the complications of aspiration pneumonia and draining any abscesses present. Tubes may be inserted to provide help in breathing, which is known as intubation. Tubes may also help the animal eat and drink. The prognosis of pharyngeal paralysis is poor. The veterinarian will carefully consider the animal’s welfare before deciding on a course of treatment.